The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - 4

GOLF CONSUMER
BASE

*

*

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but similar to Stuart's "latitudes and attitudes" theory
of why participation in the US increases as one moves
north, even extending into Canada. The other interesting fact is Ireland and Scotland's inclusion in the Top
8 despite their relatively small size (compared to, say,
Italy).
Overall, the member decline doesn't actually look that
bad compared to the US picture, losing just under 1%
over a 3-year period. For reference, our decline over
that same 3-year period is 2% (roughly 3x theirs) and
that's at our recent, more shallow recent decline rate.
When looking at the changes in the golf members
base from '15-'18, it's interesting that it's declining
across the British Isles but, other than Spain, the rest of
Europe's leading countries are either flat (GER) or up
(SWE, FRA, NETH) over this period.
Inconveniently, among the British Isles malady, leading
the decline (in percent change) is the birthplace of golf,
go figure.

There are two other interesting observations in their study
(not in the chart above). First, women represent 25% of the
golf member base. This is very similar to the US contribution,
another data point suggesting that significantly increasing that
number is a great aspirational goal but Europe won't be our
poster child for closing the gap between share-of-golfers and
share-of-population, about 51% here in the US. Second is that

While we don't have great historical
information on supply build and
contraction in Europe, I'd like to suggest
that the key difference is that Europe
doesn't have an NGF and therefore
never caught the "build-a-course-a-day"
flu that swept our country.
their supply contraction figures (~0.5% annual) are very similar
to the US. While we don't have great historical information
on supply build and contraction in Europe, I'd like to suggest
that the key difference is that Europe doesn't have an NGF
and therefore never caught the "build-a-course-a-day" flu that
swept our country. Hence, they're not having to work off ~20%
of self-induced excess supply so the contraction rate is actually
pretty well in line with the member base reduction. The one
missing element in KPMG's work, which we can appreciate and
relate to given our challenges of tracking it in the US, is rounds
demand. If rounds demand is significantly declining, then they
also have a bigger supply dilution problem than the member
numbers would suggest. As a final counterpoint though, the
way the member clubs are structured, I could assume that it
functions economically more like season passes in the US or

4 The Pellucid PersPecTive

club memberships in which case frequency isn't as big a deal
because they're paying a flat fee for membership, use it or not.
In closing our whirlwind tour of Europe golf participation
and what we can potentially learn from it, I find it interesting
and ironic that most of the US golf and media industry holds
Scottish golf in reverence for the golfer experience as to how the
game should be. Specifically, US golf stakeholders and writers
invoke the Scottish model (i.e. fast, play-it-as-it-lies, friendly
people, easy access, affordable) as the "desired state." While
I can't say I disagree in theory, something in that model isn't
currently resonating with the Scottish consumer the way it has
historically. This was pointed out by Stewart Darling, Scotland
Golf 's Non-Executive Director, in an impassioned presentation
several years ago at a gathering of the faithful in which he outlined, from a business-case perspective, that change is needed or
the downward drift will continue unabated or accelerated (he
comes from a business background, that should give one their
first clue why he's not buying into the industry-standard "this
too shall pass" mentality). Stuart Lindsay referenced and recommended in our '17 State of the Industry (delivered in January of last year) that folks go out and watch that presentation
for a factual assault on the status quo that we could learn from
here in the US. It's funny and interesting that the 9% decline
in Scottish golfers over a 3-year period got Mr. Darling that
exorcised while the US has presided over, and slept through, a
period where we were losing 4% per annum on a much, much
larger base (USGA, PGA of America, NGF, NGCOA, Bueller,
anyone?).
My parting observation on trying to solve the puzzle of
re-establishing relevancy of our sport to again grow the golfer
base references a comment that Seth Waugh, PGA of America
CEO, made at the recent groundbreaking of the Frisco relocation of the PGA headquarters as part of the half-billion dollar public-private partnership project (which Stuart Lindsay
references as well elsewhere in this issue). His remark was,
"Over the last 25 years, we've done a lot to try and kill golf.
We've made it too hard, too expensive and taking too long. The
one thing we haven't done is make it too fun. This project is a
chance to push back on that." I would respectfully suggest that
we haven't gone out of our way or changed the game to make
it harder, more expensive or more time-consuming. The game
in its natural, traditional sense is some combination of those
characteristics (sorry folks, but that is the inconvenient truth).
The difference is that the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers
accepted that and embraced our sport on its terms. We need to
realize and address that GeNext (X and Millennials) are not.
They want our sport to conform to their desires so either we're
going to have to adapt or they're going to have to change their
lifestyle and "need states" when it comes to recreation. Any bets
on which of those is more likely to happen? What I would
concur with Mr. Waugh on is that we haven't approached (or attempted with any concerted, consistent effort) pegging out the
"fun meter" for golfers in general and GeNext in specific. In my
mind, that's a key piece of the puzzle for getting golf growing
again in the US and, likely, our European counterparts could
take a page from that book as well.
n
November 2019



The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019

TOC
Golferexit in the UK?
TopGolf in El Segundo CA, the “almost” deal?
Assumptions abound, facts...not as much
October Downward Draft Blows Through US
September’s Utilization Unicorn; Weather Up, Rounds Up More
Orlando Needs All of You to Golf at ’20 Industry Shows!
Typical End-of-Season; 43 Activities Hit the Radar
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - TOC
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - Golferexit in the UK?
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - 3
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - 4
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - 5
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - TopGolf in El Segundo CA, the “almost” deal?
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - 7
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - Assumptions abound, facts...not as much
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - 9
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - October Downward Draft Blows Through US
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - 11
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - September’s Utilization Unicorn; Weather Up, Rounds Up More
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - 13
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - Orlando Needs All of You to Golf at ’20 Industry Shows!
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - 15
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - Typical End-of-Season; 43 Activities Hit the Radar
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - 17
The Pellucid Perspective - November 2019 - 18
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